By Gordon Hall
This car comes from Indonesia, birth place of Daihatsu Xenia, better known here as Toyota Avanza. They come from different companies and there’s nothing you can shake a stick at but there’s an eery regional resemblance on the outside.
But, moving on: It’s manufactured in Cikarang, West Java, where a model with different front and rear panels is offered to the local market as the Generation-2 Nissan Livina. Assembly plants in Vietnam and Malaysia distribute the Mitsubishi version throughout SE Asia.
It’s a medium sized MPV (read multi-purpose vehicle), being 4.475m long on a wheelbase of 2.77m, 1.75m wide and 1.73m tall. Our local offerings come with a 1.5-litre, naturally aspirated petrol engine developing 77 kilowatts and 141 Newton-metres. Gearbox choices are five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
The autobox appears remarkably similar to the unit in Suzuki’s Brezza and Toyota’s Urban Cruiser although nobody’s admitting a thing. Fourth gear is a switchable overdrive while positions marked 2 and L hold second and first for as long as you need them.
Top-ratio gearing is different, however. This one’s engine turned over at 3000 revs for 120 km/h versus the ‘Cruiser’s 2800. An unfortunate side effect was that the box in our Xpander auto tended to hunt on long inclines. Quick fix: use the overdrive switch to hold third until you’re back on the level.
What’s in it? Impact-absorbing construction with side beams and bars, ABS brakes with EBD, two airbags, pedestrian protection, kiddie locks, baby-seat anchors with tethers, tilt-and-reach steering wheel with buttons, multifunctional display, Bluetooth with voice control, electric windows all around, manual air conditioning with controllable vents to the rear, three power plugs, one USB, seven seats and nicely-sized door bins.
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Outside? Halogen head- and fog lamps, fold-away mirrors and 15- or 16-inch alloy wheels, depending on the gearbox chosen. It has a reversing camera but the guidance “box” remains static.
The third-row seats fold into the floor when no longer needed but, to be different, they split 50:50, rather than the usual 60:40. So that you’ll resist temptation, because they’re so close together, only two head restraints and belts are provided. The registration disc states “7 persons” too.
Knee room back there is extremely tight for adults, unless the second row is shifted forward a bit through its 10cm of adjustment. Headspace is “enough”, thanks to rooftop indentations, although it becomes more generous as one gravitates toward the front of the vehicle.
Second-row seats are more livable with adjustable recline, the slide movement mentioned above, a fist-width of headroom and unusually good foot space. Passengers can share an armrest but no separate cup holders – juice in bottles, in the door bins, please. Three head restraints with full belts and panic handles complete the amenities.
Cargo loads at an easy 70cm onto a flat floor that’s 43cm long when the third row is deployed but stretches to 103 when it’s folded, and 104cm wide. Additional wells, for holding small items, are provided each side. Owing to the extra seats, the full-size spare wheel is stored beneath the body.
The front seat area offers one visor mirror, simple HVAC and audio controls, an open tray above the generous main cubby, two cup holders for those who insist on them, generous side windows, an RHD handbrake with firm action, one of the power sockets mentioned earlier, and some storage ahead of the gear lever. The trip computer provides information about the current day’s trip only, so I could not provide my usual Real Life Consumption number for its week on test.
How does she go? Adequate but not a racehorse, it accelerates well enough to keep up with traffic and the gearbox works well – with the hunting tendency always in mind, of course. Ride quality, over most surfaces, is pleasant thanks to a well-located rear torsion beam axle and to fairly soft springs.
Why would you buy one? A four-star ASEAN NCAP rating for 2017, its year of original introduction overseas, plus it has bags of space, seven chairs when required, and all the fancy kit you really need. You also have to acknowledge its city-friendly performance, ease of use and by today’s norms, the 2021 Mitsubishi Xpander is well priced.
Test unit from Mitsubishi SA press fleet
Price: R319 995
Engine: Mitsubishi 4A91, 1499cc, DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder, naturally aspirated
Power: 77 kW at 6000 rpm
Torque: 141Nm at 4000 rpm
*0-100 km/h: 13.8 seconds
*Top speed: 170km/h
Car Magazine fuel index: 8.4 l/100km
Tank: 45 litres
Turning circle: 10.4m
Ground clearance (a/t): 205mm
*Luggage: Cabin baggage or 495-1600 litres
Standard tyre size: 205/55R16
Warranty: Three years, 100 000km
Roadside assistance: Five years, unlimited km
Service plan: Two years, 60 000km
*Tested in SE Asia